November 4, 2010
Tuesday's Election Was a Vote to Bring the 19th Century to an EndBy J.R. Dunn
The 19th century was the nursery for contemporary politics. Every form of modern political activity -- fascism, communism, socialism, liberalism -- has its roots in that epoch. (Yes, I'm fully aware of such figures as Locke, Burke, Madison, and Jefferson, but their work was hijacked and twisted all out of recognition, in large part by French revolutionaries and assorted German academics. Edmund Burke was so appalled by this that, having invented modern liberalism, he turned around and invented modern conservatism.)
Anything coming out of the 19th century is going to be imbued with rationalism, the dominant intellectual credo of the period. Rationalism has nothing to do with rationality per se; it is instead an ideology (note that "ism" -- always a giveaway) based on a severe simplification of Cartesianism, humanist doctrine, and the results of modern scientific research. For our purposes, rationalism can be defined as a reductionist doctrine holding that the universe and everything within it is a mechanism, governed by simple laws easily discovered, understood, and manipulated. A rationalist is a very smart individual who, if he doesn't know all the answers, can tell you where to get them. A political rationalist is all this and more, since political rationalism is the arena in which the limitations of the ideology first became apparent. Namely, rationalism, taken to its logical extreme (and how could it be otherwise?), leads inevitably to chaos, misery, and death on continental scales.
Most leaders of the modern era were political rationalists: Lenin, Mussolini, Woodrow Wilson, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Clement Atlee, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Harold Wilson, all the way down to Mr. Barack Obama, who lives in Washington in a building called the "White House." Whether communist, fascist, progressive, socialist, or liberal, all believed in the tenets of rationalism. Since the universe is a mechanism, and everything within it shares that quality, then society, in all its varied manifestations, was a mechanism to these rationalists as well. The social and political machinery was open to manipulation, along with all the little machines within -- humans, they were called. All were perfectible, and all could be made right with the proper formulae.
The doctrine of political rationalism remains in force today, even though it has been derelict for over a century. It got that way thanks to Planck, Einstein, and the new physics. The discovery of the quanta and its various tricks (still being uncovered to this day) rendered any consideration of a "rational" universe ludicrous. Particles (perhaps better called "entities") could be in two places at once, could move backwards in time, could interact though separated by billions of light years. (This implies that there is no such thing as a "universe" at all, at least one containing empty space, as far as the particle itself is concerned. Try to come up with a "rational" explanation for that.) While the universe does have rules, they are not our rules, and they do not follow any rational plan or formula. Physicists long ago threw in the towel and today think in terms of probabilities rather than absolutes (some very reluctantly, including Einstein himself, who argued for decades with Neils Bohr and others that the universe must have a deterministic basis).
There are many areas of modern life that this century-old news has not reached. This includes much of the educational establishment and even many areas of science itself, e.g., the descriptive schools such as zoology or botany. It also includes the world of politics, and specifically liberal politics. Liberals, whether American Democrats or European progressives, still insist that the world is a rational construct based on simplistic, easily understood rules, and that the levers can be successfully worked by the likes of Barack Obama and his czars, despite all evidence to the contrary. They continue following the same paradigm as did their 19th-century predecessors, exactly as if nothing at all has changed. You'd almost call them "reactionary."
It is a good thing that the universe is not a mechanism. It is a good thing because political rationalism has developed into one of the most destructive forces in human history. Rationalist political systems are the equivalent of natural catastrophes such as plague, earthquake, or an asteroid strike. During the 20th century, rationalist politics killed well over two hundred million people under such regimes as the Soviets, the Maoists, and the Khmer Rouge, along with social-nationalist offshoots such as the Nazis and the Italian Fascists. (Rationalism has killed no small number in the U.S. too, but in a quieter, more shadowy fashion. My upcoming book, Death by Liberalism, clearly demonstrates that such government programs as criminal justice reform, fuel standards, and environmental regulations have resulted in the death of at least 500,000 Americans in the past fifty years.) This seems a high price to pay for what amounts to a metaphysical error. But not only does pure rationalism go unrewarded, but it is evidently so alien to the actual nature of the universe as to be actively lethal. The Nazis and communists would have murdered no matter what the nature of their system. But even in the United States, operating according to high moral standards and with the best of intentions, political rationalism remains deadly.
It was this that American voters rejected at the polls Tuesday. Few things in history have been so profoundly and completely disproven as mechanistic politics. For reasons I do not completely understand, the death toll in this country has remained hidden. But a cursory glance at rationalist programs such as the New Deal and the Great Society, not to mention the nameless fumblings of Jimmy Carter (an engineer and a rationalist par excellence), are more than enough. Liberal politics is responsible for economic, social, and political damage on a historical scale, and the American people are aware of it.
Despite the record, as soon as Barack Obama got into office, he began enacting programs as clearly rationalistic as any ever attempted in this country, based on centralization, deficit spending, collectivism, and an unprecedented level of government control. All this would be easily recognized by the Fabians, the Progressives, and the Fascists.
The result has been as disastrous as any previous liberal effort: a dragging economy facing stagflation and possible further collapse, unemployment at highs not seen for decades, a level of new regulation that has all but paralyzed economic activity. And yet greater disasters will emerge tomorrow through ObamaCare, with its regulations and mandates already strangling the health care system even before they go into effect. Hope and Change is leading to the same results that anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the 20th century, with its New Deals, Five-Year Plans, Great Leaps Forward, and Great Societies, would have expected.
The voters have seen two years of it, and they have had enough. ObamaCare was the final straw. Obama, Zeke Emanuel (that's right, there are more than one of them), and Donald Berwick, rationalists all, appear hell-bent on making the mistakes identical to FDR's Brain Trust and the Great Society whiz kids (not to mention various commissars and Red Guards), whatever the cost in human misery and lives.
The voters refused to settle for that. They had heard the horror stories from Europe, had seen the rich Canadians racing across the border to Americans hospitals for treatments that somehow "weren't available" in the heath care utopia up north, and, more to the point, saw their own health care begin to deteriorate even as the ink of Obama's signature dried. They are not dialecticians or intellectual historians, but they know a stupid thing when they see a stupid thing, and they have voted to end it.
(One thing that Americans do not know about socialized health care, because it has been deliberately ignored in the "debate," is that the number of accidental deaths under the British National Health Service has skyrocketed to 95,000 per year due to filth, incompetence, and the effects of bureaucracy. The equivalent number in the U.S. would be 450,000 annually. Yet Donald Berwick, personally charged by Obama with "transforming" the American health system, says, "I am romantic about the NHS ... I love it!")
For generations we have been in the hands of men of certain strange limitations, men who evidently believe that the years still have 18s in front of them, men who think that nothing of import has taken place in the last century and a half, that no real progress in the intellectual, industrial, scientific, or medical senses has occurred. These men believe that the universe is a simple place, one created for them to meddle with. These men think they have the answers. These are men of such powerful self-delusion that they can ignore incredible levels of human misery, entire cities destroyed, wrecked economies, sections of continents reduced to near-barbarity, and mountain ranges of corpses in their eagerness to drive the "masses" onward, to push the ignorant peasantry toward that bright, glowing vision that beckons just out of reach.
The peasants will be driven no farther. This week, they voted an entire worldview dead. Not that it will simply lie down, zombie doctrine that it has been for a century or more. It will have to be beaten down, drawn, quartered, and burned, with the ashes scattered to the winds. The process will require years. But the old, failed paradigm has been given a death blow. American eyes have opened at last, and they will not close again. Plenty of battles remain, but it is safe to believe, in the words of one of the great modern conservatives, and Democrats, in the true sense: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
Now if we can only get the GOP to let go of the 1950s. That'll be a hell of a battle.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.